Comply with COVID-19 directions or face fines

The Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services has appealed to employers, supported by employees and organised labour to comply with the COVID-19 occupational health and safety direction or face fines.

Published on 11 June 2021, the minimum requirements of the 4th Direction, “Occupational health and safety measures in workplaces, COVID-19, 2021,” applies to employers and workers in workplaces who are permitted to continue or commence operations under the Disaster Management Regulations.

These Directions apply for the duration of the national state of disaster and are subject to the employer’s obligations under the OHSA to conduct a risk assessment, while employers with less than 10 employees need only to apply Section 12 of Directions.

In a statement, the department’s Chief Inspector Tibor Szana said that if the employer employs more than 50 employees, that employer must submit a record of its risk assessment, to its health and safety committee and retain a written copy of that risk assessment, plan and policy.

“In addition to the other duties placed on the employer, an employer who employs more than 50 employees in a workplace must submit the following categories of data to the NIOH in the manner set out in the National Department of Health Guidelines,” Szana said.

The department says the employer must submit the data referred to hereunder in the following manner: Only once in respect of each employee’s status, for example, each employee’s vulnerability status for serious outcomes of a COVID -19 infection.

Before Tuesday of each week in respect of the data referred to hereunder for the previous calendar week commencing on Sunday, that is:

details of the COVID -19 screening of employees who are symptomatic;

details of employees who test positive in terms of a positive laboratory test;

the number of employees identified as high risk contacts within the workplace if a worker has been confirmed as being positive; and

details on the post-infection outcomes of those testing positive, including the return to work assessment outcome.

The Chief Inspector said that the employer must inform its employees of the submission made to the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) or Department of Health and advise them of its adherence to the PoPI Act, 2013 (Act No.4 of 2013).

“The employer may submit the indicated data to an employer association if the association has entered into an agreement with the NIOH to receive, process and submit the data to the Institute; and undertaken to submit the data on behalf of the employer,” he said.

In relation to Section 16 of the Direction, the department said that the following should be taken cognisance of:

If a person fails to comply with this direction, an inspector may perform any of the functions in section 29 of the OHSA and exercise any of the powers listed in section 30 of the OHSA in order to monitor compliance with this Direction.

In so far as any contravention of these Directions constitutes a contravention of an obligation or prohibition under the OHSA, the offences and penalties provided for in section 38 of the OHSA apply.

“It is therefore a contravention not to comply with the Direction published by the Minister of Employment and Labour and is punishable by up to R100 000 or two years’ imprisonment or both in the case where an employee becomes injured or dies,” Szana said.

The data indicated above can be sent to the following:

For the data collection and transfer to commence, the business or organisation would need to be registered using the Occupational Health Surveillance Systems Web Portal (available through this link: https://ohss.nioh.ac.za/ ) so that a Unique Business ID is allocated to the business. This unique business identity would need to be provided in every data submission transaction to the NIOH.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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